The holidays can be a challenging time for an actor. Yes, it is amazing to see old friends and family, eat great food, and catch the new Oscar bait movies. But it also gets a little hard when you are asked well-meaning questions that don’t always come off that way. So I figured I would put together a guide to make the holidays a little easier for actors and their families. Below are some common questions you get asked/might ask, and some ways to respond/ask in a more compassionate and meaningful way:
1. Q: How’s LA/New York?
Sometimes, honesty is not the best policy. LA and NYC are HARD. “Pounding the pavement” feels both literal and metaphorical for pursuing your career in either of these places. Perhaps instead you could say:
Script: You know, it is really challenging. It is a daily practice to stay positive, but I have met a lot of great people and have taken some really good classes. I also try to take in all of the wonderful things the city has to offer like the [Insert amazing thing here] or the [insert other thing you love about your city].
2. Q: So how long do you think you’ll give it?
This is not a very nice question to ask. What you are basically saying is, “So when are you going to grow up?” Or simply, that you don’t believe someone is 1. talented, or 2. will find success. What you COULD ask might go something like this:
Script: I’m curious, what are some long term goals for a person in your profession? I’m not very familiar with the ins and outs of the entertainment industry and would love to know. Do you have five or ten year plans?
If you ask the question in this way, the actor will probably open and up and be glad to share the specifics of what they are working towards and where they see themselves (realistically) in a few years. Actors: You should have an answer to this question anyways. If you don’t, start thinking.
3. Q: How’s the acting career these days?
Odds are most people’s acting careers are going to be in a slow spot. Unless you are an actor who has work lined up (and then share the news!), you could respond with something like:
Script: It’s challenging as always, but that is why I signed up for this. Right now I’m focusing on classes/finding representation/getting new head shots/etc. If you would like to stay informed about what I have going on or coming up, I have an email newsletter I would love to send you!
Use specifics. Unless you are just sitting around calling yourself an actor, you probably have things to share. Just because you haven’t booked a national commercial or a role in the next Brad Pitt movie, doesn’t mean you aren’t working.
4. Q: No, but what do you really do?
This is another pretty disrespectful question. It implies that an acting career is not a full time job (which it most definitely is). It is also defining a person by their income. Sure, most actors have a survival job, but that is not how they define themselves (“I’m a waitress!”) And really, it just isn’t polite asking people about their financial health at a holiday party. You could say something like:
Script: I know a lot of actors have to take on a part time job. Is that something you have encountered as you’re building your career?
Still a little invasive, but the actor would be more willing to talk about their money job.
5. You know, you should look into getting a job at [Insert other job here]/Go into [Insert profession here]!
Again, this question implies that being an actor is not a real or full time profession. It really, truly is. Would you say this to a banker/brick mason/beautician? Maybe you would, and then I suppose it’s fair game. Usually family members say this when they are concerned about their actor child/relative. Why not express what you really mean? Trust me, it will be appreciated!
Script: You know, we see how hard this career is on you- whether it’s the constant rejection or financial worries. We just want to make sure you are doing ok, and that if there is anything we can do to help, just let us know.
Heartfelt and to the point. In this case, honesty is the best policy!
Final note to my acting brethren: It can be frustrating hearing “Always come from a place of gratitude”, or “Always be grateful”. Yes, of course. We must be grateful for what we have and the small victories we have made. But if you don’t first acknowledge any feelings of doubt/anger/frustration, you aren’t going to be able to feel something positive very truthfully. Feel those feelings. Honor where you are at mentally and emotionally. This business is one of the hardest there is and it is disingenuous to pretend it isn’t. Then, once you have looked at the nasty stuff, just beyond it are those feelings of gratitude, love, and compassion.
Now go eat some stuffing!
Love, gratitude, and a healthy dose of humility,